On Monday I spent my first day at a district training in my new school district. It was the administrative “retreat” and as always, there was a plethora of information being tossed my way regarding district initiatives, policies, and procedures. Since it was all new to me, I left at 3pm with that feeling of information overload that we all get when starting a new position.
The meeting was held in the district board room and, despite being relegated for 7 hours to the upright, boardroom chairs designed to keep meetings short and to-the-point, I survived the day and am still really excited for the start of the school year.
After a day of listening and observing, here are a few of my reflections on the day:
- The phrase, “On the bus…” has got to go. It’s the new way of saying, “buy in,” which is another phrase that has been sucked completely dry of meaning by overuse.
- Regarding “buy in,” I am sensing administrators at all levels beginning to move away from the feeling that people have to be 100% “bought in” to everything we do at the school. Before you take issue with that statement, realize that I’m not talking about forcing initiatives down people’s throats and telling them to deal with it “or else.” Take our district’s new literacy curriculum as an example. It’s been pored over for years by teachers, administrators, literacy coaches, and other experts. It’s solid and it’s been built from the bottom up with input from those who will be doing the work. How, then, can we be expected to wait around for all of the teachers in the building to “buy in” before implementing the program in our building? As Doug Reeves suggests in The Leader’s Guide to Standards, the notion of “buy in” has been placed on such a pedestal that it often becomes a barrier to getting down to the work at hand. “If people need to be motivated to do what is right, then you have the wrong people in the wrong positions” (p. 159).
- The word “accountability” can be a bit threatening. To make headway with our school effectiveness plan, it will be important to shift the focus from accountability to responsibility. Along the way, we’ll need to motivate teachers accustomed to working in solitude to come together and collaborate to do what’s best for kids.
Moving to a new school in a new district always presents a unique opportunity to see just how different the perceived needs of the community are even as little as 20 miles away. I’m sure as I get more knowledgeable about the culture and initiatives here I will be posting more about how our new initiative(s) are received by the faculty. For now, it was important to me just to do a brain dump of some of the things that have been on my mind since yesterday.